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Constitutionality of Vouchers and School Choice

Constitutionality of School Vouchers

Church and state absolutists believe that vouchers will violate the First Amendment of the Constitution. They argue that voucher systems give parents an incentive to send their kids to parochial school and thus represent an unconstitutional endorsement of religious education. As mentioned in the case study, the U.S. Supreme Court will address the Cleveland Scholarship Program’s constitutionality. Many are anticipating what precedent will be set in this ruling because it inherently deals with defining the boundaries between church and state. Can taxpayer funds be allocated by the government to send children to a religiously-affiliated school?

Consider the case of the Cleveland Scholarship Program. This program gives parents $2250 per year. Meanwhile, the cost of tuition at a religiously-affiliated private school is, on average, about $1200. The cost of tuition at a non-religious private school is, on average, about $5000. This price breakdown shows the implicit incentive in the Cleveland program–parents who cannot afford to pay more money out of their pocket will enroll their children in religiously-affiliated private schools. The founders of Cleveland’s program argue that city parents are in no way encouraged to send their kids to religious schools. Parents can choose public magnet or charter schools, which are free and get far more funding per student than voucher schools.

The importance of the Supreme Court decision that will be made should not be underestimated. “This is probably the most important church-state case in the last half-century,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “It will be a historic showdown over

Public Financing of Vouchers and School Choice Argumentative Persuasive Essays

Public Financing of a Private Venture Certain groups support parents’ rights to send their children to private or religious schools but oppose the use of public funds to do so. The main reason for this opposition is because public funding of private or religious education transfers precious tax dollars from public schools, which are free and open to all children, accountable to parents and taxpayers alike, and essential to our democracy, to private and religious schools. Private and religious schools, in turn, charge for their services, select their students on the basis of religious, academic, family or personal characteristics, and are accountable only to their boards and clients. Mixing public funds with private ventures can get sticky, argue opponents. Appropriation of public funds to public agencies carries with it the right to audit, inspect, and revise funding for those agencies. The same cannot be said about money allocated to private schools. Of particular concern is the possibility of discrimination. Since private schools are allowed to set certain criteria for admission, there exists the potential for discrimination against a group on the basis of religion or ethnicity, argue opponents. This would be an unacceptable consequence that is inherent in public funding of a private venture. An alternative tax credit program has been proposed to the school voucher system. Such a program lets taxpayers donate money to nonprofit scholarship groups; at tax time, they receive the money back, dollar for dollar. The scholarship organizations pool the money and award them to low-income students. Unlike vouchers, which are prone to the objection above, the tax credit is immune to charges of public funding of a private enterprise. Donations are private and voluntary, similar to the federal deduction for charitable giving.

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